Governors yesterday raised the alarm over the infiltration of their states by suspected mercenaries posing as Fulani cattle rearers. The bandits are quite different from Fulani and well-armed, the governors said.
The insurgents disguise as military men, they use AK-47 and their mission are not known, said the governors who fear that the insurgents may unleash terror on 17 states.
The state governors who raised concern about the latest development in the country’s long battle against insurgency at the National Economic Council (NEC) meeting presided over by Vice President Namadi Sambo, at the presidential villa, Abuja, are Adams Oshiomhole (Edo), Emmanuel Uduaghan (Delta) and Idris Wada (Kogi).
NEC chaired by Sambo, with all the 36 state governors and some ministers as members, is the highest economic policymaking body in the country. Only about 10 governors attended the meeting yesterday, while a good number of the governors absent were represented by their deputies.
Briefing State House correspondents after the NEC meeting alongside his Benue counterpart, Gabriel Suswam, Akwa Ibom State governor Godswill Akpabio said, “Comprehensive discussion was made in the council and the governors of Delta and Edo states say that people came into their states in trucks without cattle. Cattle grazers move around with cattle but these insurgents now come to town in their large numbers and in trailer loads.
“The governor of Kogi also confirmed that they have cordoned off an area because these people came in four trucks. They have asked security to cordon them. It is actually a cause for concern because mercenaries have taken over; what is happening is that this is beyond the Fulanis that we know and who are part of us. These are different crops of people either parading as Fulani or people who are Fulani from displaced areas because they are heavily armed.
“The Fulani around us here are never heavily armed. Even their women carry AK 47. So these are not the regular Fulani we are used to who are within our country. These are people moving into our country with a mission we are yet to know. But the NSA assured us that serious actions are being taken to address and contain these people who are moving into Nigeria from destinations that we do not even know.”
Akpabio hinted that Governor Suswam absolved three soldiers arrested by a group of youths in his state and clarified on the involvement of the military in communal clashes taking place in Benue, even as he said the insurgents most of the time wear military uniforms.
He said Suswam explained that the arrest of three soldiers by some youths in a community in Benue was done in error, adding that the soldiers did not go there to attack the community.
“It was not as if they came to attack but they were actually in the town. The fact of the matter is that the insurgents now wear military uniforms,” he stated.
On the growing spate of gory clashes between farmers and herdsmen, the governor said council received a presentation by the national security adviser on the incessant conflicts between farmers and pastorialists, highlighting the challenges and solutions in Nigeria.
He said, “According to the NSA’s presentation, 17 states have been identified as flashpoints, among which are Plateau, Benue, Adamawa, Niger, Bauchi, Nasarawa, Kwara, Kaduna and Oyo. NSA reported to the council that his office is working out an international conference in Nigeria to deal with the situation, adding that an international NGO in Geneva is already working with some communities in Plateau State to find ways of settling the conflicts.
“Council noted that a committee on grazing reserves under the chairmanship of Governor Murtala Nyako is already working to provide solutions to the farmers-pastorialists’ conflicts. Council also recommended that the governor of Benue State should join Governor Nyako as co-chair to fast-track the working of the committee.”
Akpabio further hinted that NEC also resolved that a technical committee be set up to come up with recommendations on how to manage incessant conflicts between crop farmers and pastorialists, adding that the committee is to report back to council within two weeks.
He listed the committee members as follows: minister of agriculture (chairman), minister of environment (member), minister of science and technology (member), minister of interior (member), minister of water resources (member), minister of national planning (member), NSA (member), director-general of National Orientation Agency (member) and representatives of states as members.
Akpabio disclosed further that NEC expressed worry over the displacement of farmers by herdsmen, even as he said if the situation was not nipped in the bud, it may lead to food shortage in the country.
He added that NEC, however, decided that its chairman, Vice President Namadi Sambo, should consult with President Goodluck Jonathan so that an emergency meeting be convened of all the affected states to find lasting solution to the problem.
NEC also hinted that the Excess Crude Account (ECA) at the moment stands at $3.5bn after payments for fuel subsidy and SURE-P.
Governor Akpabio said after the coordinating minister for the economy and minister of finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, had briefed the council on Excess Crude Account, NEC resolved that details of spending on excess crude be given to states on time, just as it urged that expeditious action be taken to sort out all the legalities surrounding the ECA.
Governors at NEC meeting
The governors who attended the NEC meeting are Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom), Gabriel Suswam (Benue), Jonah Jang (Plateau), Ibrahim Dankwambo (Gombe), Martins Elechi (Ebonyi), Olusegun Mimiko (Ondo), Emmanuel Uduaghan (Delta), Willie Obiano (Anambra), Liyel Imoke (Cross River) and Idris Wada (Kogi). Others sent their deputies to represent them.
Trapped Terrorists Come Under Fire Near Cameroon Border
A group of terrorists attempting to escape into Cameroon through Taraba and Gumti in Adamawa State have come under heavy fire from troops on patrol of the area in the ongoing counter-terrorism campaign.
The terrorists who had been trapped as a result of ongoing offensive by troops along the borders were given out when some of them could no longer bear the hunger in their makeshift camps in the forest.
According to a statement issued yesterday in Abuja and signed by the director of information, Major General Chris Olukolade, some of them that were arrested led the troops to their hideouts where they exchanged fire before they were overpowered by the military.
“Those who were apprehended led troops to other hideouts where fierce fighting ensued. Seven terrorists died, while a large number of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and rifles were recovered, as were over 70 motorcycles. A similar encounter in Gombi also led to the death of four other terrorists,” the military stated.
The Defence Headquarters also disclosed that a kingpin of terror who claimed to be a citizen of Chad and Burkina-Faso was arrested with other suspected terrorists.
According to the military, “sustained patrols and searches by the Multi-National Joint Task Force have led to the arrest of more terrorists including a heavily armed suspect who is claiming dual nationalities of Chad and Burkina-Faso. He was arrested with different calibres of arms and ammunition along the Chad borders and is currently helping in ongoing investigation by the special forces”.
Patrols are still ongoing around the Lake Chad including Kwatan, Kanwa, Kwatan Yobe and other islands with a view to arresting terrorists who are still in their hideouts.
Boko Haram: Nigeria Takes Case To UN
Meanwhile, president of the Senate David Mark has asked the United Nations (UN) to intervene and indeed rescue Nigeria from the clutches of insurgency bringing the nation to its kneels.
Senator Mark admitted before the visiting deputy secretary-general of UN , Mr Jan Eliasson, that the security challenges facing Nigeria demands support and assistance from the UN.
A press statement issued by his chief press secretary Paul Mumeh said: “We are pained by what is happening to us. The security challenge is enormous . We truly need assistance from the UN to tackle the situation. If somebody had told me that Nigeria would face this kind of security challenge five years ago, I would have dismissed it.
“Our security operatives are applying minimal force to address the situation .We are also appealing to the perpetrators to see reasons and give peace a chance.”
Senator Mark also told the UN boss that Nigeria rightly deserves a permanent member seat at the UN Security Council and urged the global body to help Nigeria realize the ambition.
Mark: “Nigeria will continue to play key roles in international and regional affairs. We have excellent record in peacekeeping operations.”
The Senate president also requested the UN to put measures in place to help industrialise Nigeria as part of efforts to create job opportunities and engage the growing army of unemployed youths.
He said Nigeria will continue to identify her challenges with a view to finding solutions to them.
Earlier, the deputy secretary-general of the UN appreciated Nigeria for the continued support and cooperation to the global body. Eliasson noted that the UN anchors its operations on the peace, security, development, human rights, justices and rule of law which he asked Nigeria to uphold.
He promised that the UN would map out strategies to help Nigeria tackle the menace of terrorism now assuming a dangerous dimension in the land. He cautioned Nigeria not to be provoked, intimidated or fear,but confront it headlong.
For Eliasson, Nigeria is a strategic partner to the UN both at the regional and global perspective, assuring: “We on our side will extend our cooperation to you.”
He said the UN building in Abuja destroyed by terrorists in 2011 was being rebuilt and asked for adequate security to forestall a recurrence.
Embrace Dialogue In North-east, NATA Tells FG, Insurgents
The Nigerian Automobile Technicians Association (NATA) yesterday in Abuja urged the federal government to restore peace to the north-eastern part of the country where the counter-insurgency war is ongoing. He called on the Boko Haram sect leaders to embrace dialogue to resolve whatever agitation they have.
The NATA president, Chief Michael Omonayin, made this call while addressing delegates to the first National Executive Committee meeting to be held since the relocation of the national secretariat to Abuja. It signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the management of Ammasco International Limited on production of customised lubricants.
He noted with regret the economic implication of the insurgency and commiserated with the bereaved including its members who operate within the affected states.
NATA is a national professional body of micro, small and medium-scale auto-repairers in the informal economy.
Omonayin said, “I want to identify with all our members from Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states who have fallen victims of the terrorist saga. We commiserate with those who have lost members of their families or who have died in the several attacks that are ongoing. We hope the Boko Haram sect would embrace dialogue in the interest of peace while the government restores peace before it is too late.”
On the MoU, Omonayin said the organisation has agreed to work together with the company in order to revolutionalise oil lubricants market with a view to taking it to a global standard.
“There is no gainsaying the fact that what has happened today is a step forward for the two organisations. The benefits are mutual and I believe that this is just a start to the many projects we can carry out together.”
The chairman of Ammasco, Alhaji Mustapha Muhammad, represented by Mr Abdurazaq Sabo, administration manager of Ammasco, promised to ensure that NATA derived adequate satisfaction from the customised product.
“Our business is to do for NATA what we know how to do best. I want to say today that what we are doing here, that is, the signing of this MoU is a step in the right direction,’’ he said.
The association also discussed the proposed merger with the Lady Mechanic Initiative and it was unanimously adopted. Delegates from all over the federation were in attendance.